Meaning of SPEED in English


I. speed 1 S2 W1 /spiːd/ BrE AmE noun

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ speed , ↑ speeding ; verb : ↑ speed ; adverb : ↑ speedily ; adjective : ↑ speedy ]

[ Language: Old English ; Origin: sped 'success, quickness' ]

1 . OF MOVEMENT [uncountable and countable] the rate at which something moves or travels:

The truck was travelling at a speed of 50 mph.

particles that travel at the speed of light.


In everyday English, people usually talk about how fast something or someone is rather than using the noun speed :

▪ What speed was he going? ➔ How fast was he going?

2 . OF ACTION [uncountable and countable] the rate at which something happens or is done

speed of

the speed of change within the industry

a high-speed computer

The population was growing at great speed.

3 . FAST [uncountable] the quality of being fast:

The women’s basketball team has talent, speed, and power.

with speed

She acted with speed and efficiency.

at speed British English :

a van travelling at speed

4 . PHOTOGRAPHY [countable]

a) the degree to which photographic film is sensitive to light

b) the time it takes for a camera ↑ shutter to open and close:

a shutter speed of 1/250 second

5 . DRUG [uncountable] informal an illegal drug that makes you very active SYN amphetamine

6 . five-speed/ten-speed etc having five, ten etc ↑ gear s :

a ten-speed bike

7 . up to speed having the latest information or knowledge about something:

Some school officials are only now getting up to speed regarding computers.

John will bring you up to speed (=tell you the latest information) .

⇨ full speed/steam ahead at ↑ full 1 (18)

• • •

COLLOCATIONS (for Meanings 1 & 2)

■ verbs

▪ increase your speed

He increased his speed until he was running flat out.

▪ gain/gather/pick up speed (=go faster)

The Mercedes was gradually picking up speed.

▪ reach a speed

The trains will reach speeds of 140 mph.

▪ maintain a speed (=keep the same speed)

The aircraft is designed to maintain a steady speed.

▪ reduce speed (=slow down deliberately)

She reduced speed as she approached the village.

▪ lose speed (=slow down without wanting to)

The engine made a strange sound and we lost speed.


▪ an average speed

Our average speed was 88 mph.

▪ a constant/steady speed

The disc revolves at a constant speed.

▪ a top/maximum speed (=the highest possible)

The car has a top speed of 132 mph.

▪ wind speed (=the speed of the wind)

The average wind speed will be about 14 knots.

▪ air speed (=the speed of a plane in relation to the air around it)

■ phrases

▪ at high/great speed

The train was travelling at high speed.

▪ at low/slow speed

Even at low speed, an accident could mean serious injury for a child.

▪ at full speed (=running, driving etc as fast as possible)

He ran past us at full speed.

▪ at/with lightning speed (=very quickly)

He moved with his usual lightning speed.

▪ at breakneck speed (=very quickly)

He drove away at breakneck speed.

■ speed + NOUN

▪ a speed limit

The speed limit is 40 mph here.

▪ a speed restriction

New speed restrictions have been introduced.

▪ a speed camera (=designed to photograph vehicles going too fast)

Most GPS systems will warn you when there are speed cameras.

II. speed 2 BrE AmE verb ( past tense and past participle sped /sped/ or speeded )

[ Word Family: noun : ↑ speed , ↑ speeding ; verb : ↑ speed ; adverb : ↑ speedily ; adjective : ↑ speedy ]

1 . [intransitive always + adverb/preposition] to go quickly:

The car sped along the dusty highway.

2 . [transitive always + adverb/preposition] to take someone or something somewhere very quickly:

An ambulance sped her to the hospital.

3 . be speeding to be driving faster than the legal limit:

I got caught speeding on the A40 yesterday.

4 . ( also speed something ↔ up ) [transitive] to make something happen faster OPP slow down :

This news should speed his recovery.

speed by phrasal verb

if time speeds by, it seems to pass very quickly:

The weeks sped by and soon it was time to go back to school.

speed up phrasal verb

to move or happen faster, or to make something move or happen faster OPP slow down :

The truck speeded up going down the hill.

speed something ↔ up

The new system will speed up the registration process.

Longman Dictionary of Contemporary English.      Longman - Словарь современного английского языка.